For the latest findings, read: Coping with COVID-19: How Young People Use Digital Media to Manage Their Mental Health, sponsored by Common Sense Media, Hopelab, and California Health Care Foundation.
Below are excerpts from three research reports focused on teens and young adults:
- Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018, by Monica Anderson and Jingjing Jiang (Pew Research Center)
- Digital Health Practices, Social Media Use, and Mental Well-Being Among Teens and Young Adults in the U.S., by Victoria Rideout and Susannah Fox (Hopelab and Well Being Trust)
- Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences, by Victoria Rideout and Michael B. Robb (Common Sense Media)
The Hopelab and Well Being Trust (HL/WBT) report is based on a nationally representative, probability-based survey of more than 1,300 U.S. teens and young adults, ages 14 to 22, conducted in February and March 2018. Among other demographic measures asked at the end of the survey, the following questions were asked of all respondents:
- What sex were you assigned at birth, on your original birth certificate? 49% answered male; 51% answered female; and one person skipped the question
- How do you describe yourself? 49% answered male; 50% answered female; 1% answered that they do not identify as male, female, or transgender; one person answered transgender; and one person skipped the question.
For analysis based on gender, only those who identify as either male or female, whether transgender or not, were included in the HL/WBT report.
The Pew Research Center’s survey (PRC) of 743 U.S. teens (ages 13-17) was conducted March 7-April 10, 2018. The Common Sense Media (CSM) survey of 1,141 U.S. teens (ages 13-17) was conducted March 22-April 10, 2018. Those surveys asked a single, binary question about gender.
Device ownership among teens, by gender:
97% of of teen girls (ages 13-17) have or have access to a smartphone, as do 93% of teen boys. The real difference between girls and boys emerges when looking at game console use: 75% of girls have one, compared to 92% of boys. (PRC)
Social media use among teens and young adults, by gender:
93% of both female and male teens and young adults say they use at least one social media site. Young women are more likely than young men to use Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. (HL/WBT)
Communication preferences among teens, by gender:
Texting with friends is equally popular among teen girls and boys. Teen boys are more likely than teen girls to say they prefer to communicate with friends in person (35% vs. 28%). Teen girls are more likely than teen boys to say they prefer to communicate with friends through social media (20% vs. 12%). (CSM)
Digital health practices among teens and young adults, by gender:
Among 14- to 22-year-olds, females are more likely than males to report making use of digital health tools, including going online for health information, looking for peer-to-peer health advice online, and using mobile health apps. There are no differences in how helpful females and males find the online resources they use. (HL/WBT)
- 91% of teen and young adult females say they have gone online for health information, compared to 83% of males. The largest differences are in females’ searches for information on birth control (47%, compared to 11%) and pregnancy (45%, compared to 10%). There are also large differences in the likelihood of females reporting they have gone online for information about anxiety (55%, compared to 29%) and depression (49%, compared to 27%). (HL/WBT)
- 71% of female teens and young adults say they have tried mobile apps related to health, compared to 57% of males. Three in ten (30%) females say they currently use a health app, compared to two in ten (20%) males. Fully 48% of females ages 18- to 22-years-old and 25% of teen girls say they have used a period tracking app, compared with 2% of males. Sixteen percent of females use a meditation app, compared with 5% of males.
- Two-thirds (67%) of female teens and young adults say they have watched or read someone else’s health story online, compared to 55% of males. (HL/WBT)
- 44% of females in this age group say they have tried to find people online with health concerns similar to their own, compared to 33% of males. (HL/WBT)
- There are no statistically significant differences by gender in the likelihood of young people reporting that they share their own personal health experiences online, or that they use digital tools to connect with health providers online. (HL/WBT)
For more information on how to conduct survey research that accurately measures gender, please see:
- Center of Excellence for Transgender Health’s recommendations for inclusive data collection.
- Reisner, Sari L et al. “Advancing methods for US transgender health research” Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity vol. 23,2 (2016): 198-207.
- Spiel, Katta; Haimson, Oliver; Lottridge, Danielle. “How to do better with gender on surveys: A guide for HCI researchers” The Digital Library vol. XXVI.4 July-August 2019.
- The GenIUSS Group. (2014). Best Practices for Asking Questions to Identify Transgender and Other Gender Minority Respondents on Population-based Surveys. J.L. Herman (ed.). Los Angeles, CA: the Williams Institute. (PDF)
To see a fact sheet about U.S. adults’ use of online health resources, please visit the main Research page.
Photo by Meghan Fox